9 Things to Know About Attorney General Nominee William Barr

On January 15, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin confirmation hearings for the new attorney general, nominee William Barr. He†is expected to permanently fill the spot left by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who President Donald Trump demanded resign from the position in late 2018.

But who is Barr and what can we expect from the upcoming hearing? Here’s everything you need to know:

1. He’s an experienced attorney general.

Unlike so many Trump administration picks, who seem to be thrust into jobs way above their heads, Barr at least has some experience in the position. Between 1991 and 1993, Barr was the attorney general†under former President George H.W. Bush, making him an old hat at the role.

2. And far more experienced than the acting attorney general

Until a new nominee is confirmed, the role of acting attorney general is being filled by Matthew Whitaker, the chief of staff under Sessions. Prior to the appointment, Whitaker was an ex college football star, lawyer and failed Iowa Senate candidate.

3. The president swears Barr was his first choice — despite never having heard of him

According to CNN, Trump announced:

I want to confirm that Bill Barr, one of the most respected jurists in the country, highly respected lawyer, former attorney general under the Bush administration, a terrific man, a terrific person, a brilliant man.†I did not know him until recently when I went through the process of looking at people and he was my first choice from day one, respected by Republicans and respected by Democrats.

4. Probably because he could help the president move from Russia collusion back to “Clinton crimes”

The New York Times†writes:

Mr. Barr, 68, would become the nationís top law enforcement official as Mr. Trump and his associates are under investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, for whether they conspired with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election and help elect Mr. Trump. Mr. Barr would oversee the inquiry as key aspects of it are coming to a close.

Known for his expansive vision of executive power, Mr. Barr has criticized Mr. Mueller for hiring too many prosecutors who donated to Democrats and has cast doubt on whether Trump campaign associates conspired with Russians. Mr. Barr has also defended Mr. Trumpís calls for a new criminal investigation into his defeated 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, including over a uranium mining deal the Obama administration approved when she was secretary of state.

5. But he may not be a “border wall” ally

Missouri Lawyers Weekly†reports:

Barr was attorney general under President George H.W. Bush when he was asked in a Feb. 24, 1992, interview whether he supported a proposal from Republican presidential challenger Pat Buchanan to erect a barrier of ditches and fences along the border to stop illegal immigration.

“I donít think itís necessary. I think thatís overkill to put a barrier from one side of the border to the other,” Barr replied on “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour” on PBS. “In fact, the problem with illegal immigration across the border is really confined to major metropolitan areas. Illegal immigrants do not cross in the middle of the desert and walk hundreds of miles,” instead choosing more “certain specified routes.”

6. He probably won’t be any better for civil rights than Sessions was

According to†Colorlines, Faiz Shakir, national political director for the†American Civil Liberties Union†said in a statement,

William Barrís record suggests that he will follow Jeff Sessionsí legacy of hostility to civil rights and civil liberties. If confirmed, Trump will have a partner in one of the most powerful roles of the administration, and someone who defended the presidentís decision to fire James Comey. The Senate must press Barr to adhere to the obligation of the Justice Department to defend the rights of allóimmigrants, women, people of color, LGBTQ people and people with disabilities. Barr must commit to defending the rule of law and civil rights, not serving as a political arm of Trumpís anti-constitutional†agenda.

7. He’s really into incarceration as the answer for basically everything

In December, the Advancement Project†tweeted:

Trump’s pick for AG isn’t just a supporter of mass incarceration, he wrote the book on it. In 1992 he signed off on “The Case for More Incarceration.” Trump picking Barr isn’t a surprise. It’s in line w his attacks on Black communities & his racist approach to justice.

8. Plus, he thinks Roe v. Wade should be overturned

According to†The Hill, Barr said during his hearing in the ’90s:

I think that the basic issue is whether or not abortion should be something that is decided by society,†by the people, the extent to which it is permitted, the extent to which it is regulated, that those are legitimate issues for state legislatures to deal with, and thatís where the decision-making authority should be. Roe v. Wade basically, in my view, took it away from the states and found an absolute right in the Constitution, foreclosed any kind of role for society to place regulations on abortion, and I don’t think that opinion was the right opinion.

9. In fact, he’s a “traditional values” guy

The†Daily Beast†writes:

[I]n a 1995 essay, Barr expressed an extreme view that American government should not be secular, but instead should impose “a transcendent moral order with objective standards of right and wrong thatÖ flows from Godís eternal law.” Barr went on to blame everything from crime to sexually transmitted diseases on a government-led attack on “traditional values.” He explicitly called for the government to subsidize Catholic religious education and to promote laws which restrain sexual immorality’ a reference to homosexuality and extramarital sex.

Photo credit: CSPAN/Wikimedia Commons


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